A Party Surprise - Reading for a purpose“Whack! The swinging piñata is hit hard. Everyone laughs and cheers. A piñata is a hollow shape that is filled with candy. When someone breaks it open, everyone gets a treat.”

A Party Surprise

I recently talked with an excited ESL teacher from Virginia whose students found their own unique treat when they stumbled upon a fun variation of an activity in the Imagine Learning Resource Guide.

Mrs. Diaz’s students wanted to make a piñata, which they were learning about in the Imagine Learning English story A Party Surprise.

“Let me say that when I planned my lesson with this passage, I didn’t even think about my students making piñatas,” Mrs. Diaz said. “After we read it on the second day, one of my students asked, ‘Is that all you have to do? That’s all you need to make a piñata? It seems too easy to me.’ That’s when I asked if they wanted to follow the directions and find out.”

Mrs. Diaz brought in a bowl of flour, and students volunteered to bring in some additional materials. Mrs. Diaz marveled at how engaged her students were with the text they were reading. With nothing more than some basic supplies and written directions, her students successfully created their very own piñatas.

“They would read and do, then reread and do. Talk about reading for a purpose!” she said.

Reading for a purpose

Jianfei Chen, in her online course from Indiana University, outlines the process through which teachers can effectively establish a specific purpose for reading: “A specific purpose for reading is one that helps guide students’ efforts to focus on important information in the text (i.e., important in light of the general purpose for reading the text). This specific focus should be explicitly stated before students begin reading.”

Stage Teacher’s Goals
Before Reading
  • Activate students’ prior knowledge
  • Provide vocabulary instruction if necessary
  • Establish one or more specific and explicit purposes for reading
  • Motivate students to read.
During Reading
  • Provide students with an activity that will allow them to monitor their comprehension in light of the purpose(s) for reading.
After Reading
  • Provide students with the opportunity to assess their own comprehension of the text in light of the purpose(s) for reading
  • Extend and elaborate on ideas from the text

(Table from http://www.indiana.edu/~l517/purpose.html)

How do you help students read for a purpose? Please leave a comment below.

Click here to download the free classroom activity “A Party Surprise.”

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